As day length decreases in the winter months, people may find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  This syndrome shares many of the same characteristics of clinical depression but is only present during the fall and winter (note: some people have a type of seasonal depression that is only associated with the spring and summer.)  This disorder is more common in the northern latitudes because the day length is shorter.  It is thought that the reduced sun exposure decreases serotonin production in sensitive people.  Common symptoms are lethargy, increased appetite, depression, excess sleep and antisocial feelings.  It is likely that people with jobs that keep them indoors during the day have greater risk.  Cloudy or rainy days that decrease sunlight exposure may also increase the frequency of this disorder.

If you think you are suffering from SAD you should consult you doctor for treatment. There are lots of things you can do to prevent and treat this disorder.  Increasing your exposure to available light by getting outside during the day is very helpful (be sure to wear sunscreen).  Using broad-spectrum lights that mimic the sun’s light may also provide benefit.  Exercise, especially aerobic exercise improves the mood for hours or days afterward.  It is also very important to eat enough protein so that your body has the building blocks to make enough serotonin.  Foods high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, are especially helpful.

If these simple tips aren’t enough be sure to seek medical attention.  Untreated depression causes needless suffering for many people.  A trained naturopathic doctor can use herbs, vitamins, amino acids, homeopathy or medications to help bring you back into balance.

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